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Sinema, Democratic leaders reach deal on changes to health and climate bill

Senator Kyrsten Sinema walks through the Capitol
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the Capitol in February.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said late Thursday she will support moving forward with Democrats’ health, tax and climate bill, a strong sign that the party will be able to advance some of its major policy priorities before the midterm election.

The Arizona Democrat’s vote is needed to pass the agreement hammered out between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The bill would allow the federal government to begin to negotiate drug prices in Medicare and would help combat the climate crisis, two major political priorities that Democrats are hoping to run on this fall.

Sinema, who was not a part of the Manchin-Schumer negotiations, was able to remove a tax provision, called carried interest, that would have hit hedge fund managers and other wealthy investors. She also said that she made changes to “protect advanced manufacturing, and boost our clean energy economy,” but did not provide details.

Shortly after Sinema released her statement, Schumer said that he believed the modified bill would get the support of all Democrats and both independents who caucus with the party. With Republicans firmly against the plan, any Democratic opposition would kill the effort.

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“I am pleased to report that we have reached an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act that I believe will receive the support of the entire Senate Democratic conference,” he said. “I have had many productive discussions with members of our conference over the past three days, and we have addressed a number of important issues they have raised.”

Democrats are using a special parliamentary procedure called reconciliation that does not allow for a GOP filibuster.

The bill still has a few hurdles remaining: It needs to go before the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian, who will determine that each line of the bill fits the reconciliation rules. If a piece doesn’t conform to the rules, Democrats will have to rewrite it or scrap it.

In a nod to that effort, Sinema said in her statement that “subject to the parliamentarian’s review, I’ll move forward.”

And because the Senate will have to hold more than one vote on the bill, Sinema left room to modify her vote in the future. The first vote on the package is expected Saturday afternoon.

Sinema was engaged in days of negotiation over the details of the bill. Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, was given almost carte blanche to write the bill that he wanted because most Democrats viewed him as the toughest vote to get on board.

Sinema was not part of those negotiations and, seemingly surprised by the bill, refused for several days to say how she viewed the deal.

It was a silence that grew more ominous among Democrats in the days since the Manchin-Schumer deal was announced.

It became clear that she wanted to modify the tax provisions and boost the climate spending. The carried-interest policy would have generated $14 billion. She also wanted to add $5 billion to combat drought in the Southwest, a provision that would have been supported by other western Democrats.

Her power position was on full display Thursday as the Senate voted on a judicial nominee from Arizona. A few Senate Republicans who originally voted against the nominee later changed their vote after Sinema chased them down and held a private conversation. Conservatives have also been courting Sinema, hoping she would withhold her support from the Democratic bill.


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